A Woman to Know: Stephanie St. Clair

I have no fear of anybody. — Stephanie

(image via The Mob Museum)


People knew her Madame Queenie, Ruler of the Harlem Numbers Rackets, mentor to mobster "Bumpy" Johnson and enemy of gangster Dutch Schultz. When Stephanie St. Clair first entered New York's organized crime world in the early 1910s, she was the only woman in the game. She built a reputation around her Prohibition Era business savvy, and after years raking in the millions, she put her fortune toward community organizing. When other mobsters threatened her numbers empire, she'd take out full-page ads in the Harlem newspapers, boasting her prowess but also advocating for local political reform.

But Stephanie's empire wasn't unassailable for long. After shooting at her cheating husband in a highly-publicized dispute, Stephanie spent years in jail -- and when she got out, her gangster days were over. She spent her final years in Harlem, frequenting all her old haunts, remembered by the locals as "sane and smart and fearless."

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** Thank you to gablewriter for suggesting Stephanie as a woman to know. Send your own recommendations for others! Reply to this newsletter with your lady and she could be featured in an upcoming edition. You can browse the archive here. **